Book review: The Lost Soul by Rosie Goodwin

Could a 12-year-old girl deliberately set fire to her adopted parents’ house and burn them alive?

Wednesday, 29th December 2010, 6:00 am

This is the conundrum at the heart of Rosie Goodwin’s disturbing and sometimes distressing new novel which looks deep into the psyche of a hidden corner of our society.

A former social worker and foster mother, Goodwin can always be relied on to present us with a raw slice of life and The Lost Soul is a haunting and harrowing tale of a child let down by the adults who are supposed to protect her.

Maddy Donovan is a sullen, plain and awkward child and was just seven when she and younger brother Oliver were removed from the home of their alcoholic mother.

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It should have been the start of a wonderful new life for them when they were adopted by the well-heeled Donovans and moved into their luxury middle-class home.

But Michelle Donovan was a secret bully who adored little Oliver but used Maddy as a household drudge.

So when the Donovans die in a fire caused by a chip pan which was mysteriously set ablaze by the two youngsters in the middle of night, suspicion falls on Maddy who seems totally unmoved by the tragedy.

But things just aren’t adding up for Maddy’s social worker Sue Maddox and she finds the young girl a temporary foster home with caring young couple Andy and Kirsty Tranter.

The Tranters are childless and grow fond of Maddy, sensing she is more of ‘a lost soul’ than ‘a sullen little thing’.

They are determined to adopt her but are thwarted by a police and social services decision to send her instead to River House, a boarding school for ‘misfits’.

Will Maddy’s determination see her through the ordeal of next five years and will she ever see Oliver again?

Goodwin understands the tragedies and traumas of broken families and the heartbreak of needy children failed by a world too busy or too uncaring to help them.

She writes about pain and trauma with all the insight and empathy of a professional...and there won’t be a dry eye in the house when the last page of The Lost Soul is turned.

A moving and powerful novel.

(Headline, paperback, £6.99)